I’ve noted many times how, in news reports of gun deaths, guns seem to just go off all on their ownsome, without the interference of some human agency to cause their triggers to be engaged. It’s not just guns, folks.
In a much longer post about perception and perspective in reporting the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Mikhail Lyubansky gives a telling example–telling in its pettiness–of how the framing of an event affects reporting and consequent perception of it.
A few days ago, high school students in my local community were holding a rally outside the high school to protest the grand jury decisions in the police shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The rally, which was approved by school officials, was designed to take place on school grounds but spilled over to the street in front of the school. While the students were on the street, a woman attempted to drive a car through the group of students [see video]. Students responded by hitting the car and apparently did some damage to the glass. The event was reported by the local newspaper:
Some of them [students] walked into Crescent Drive in front of the school. As that occurred, a vehicle travelled through the crowd. At least one of the students struck the vehicle’s window and caused damage to the glass, according to police, who were called to the scene.
Notice how the article places the damage to the car in the foreground. The car was not driven through the group of students, it just somehow “travelled through the crowd” — the passive voice. But when it comes to the damage to the car, it didn’t just happen. Rather “one of the students struck the vehicle’s window” — the active voice.
Do read the rest, and remember to read the news with several grains of salt.
I take no responsibility for the Psychology Today blogger’s ignorance of basic grammar.
“Car traveled” is active voice, even though it is obfuscatory, in that it attributes agency to the car, which is a mechanical device without agency.